Find out how I feed my family on a shoestring budget.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Last week and this week

My task for yesterday evening was to post up last week's recipes, but as I went to bed at half past six before the baby I missed that task. I did make a very nice chocolate fudge pudding on Friday, but I'll save last week's recipes for another time.

Here's the dinner menu for this week.

Saturday - Veggie bacon chowder
Sunday - Vegetable hot pot and brocolli
Monday - Red lentil tart with boiled potatoes and peas (a pre-cooked frozen tart)
Tuesday - Pasta with broccoli and walnuts
Wednesday - Lasagne and garlic bread (pre-cooked and frozen)
Thursday - Crunchy pasties (my Mum's secret recipe she'll kill me if I give the recipe away) with veg and new potatoes (pre-cooked frozen pasties).
Friday - chick pea broth and parsley dumplings.

Veggie Bacon Chowder
Oil for frying (I used olive oil)
Some bacon
Some sweetcorn
1 medium onion
1 large potato
Half a pint of vegetable stock
Half a pint of milk (I used soya milk)
2 tbsp of cornflour.

1. Chop the onion and bacon and saute in the oil.
2. Chop the potato into bit sized pieces and add to the pan.
3. After tossing the potato around for a bit add the stock and sweet corn, simmer for about 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile make the cornflour into a paste with a wee bit of milk.
5. Add the cornflour mix and the rest of the milk and simmer until the potato is cooked.
YUM. N loved this.

Vegetable hot pot.
Whatever veg you fancy
Oil for frying
Handful of red lentils
Handful of pearl barley
Handful of veggie mince
Squidge of tomato paste
Spoonful of marmite
1 large potato cut into thin slices
Butter, milk or cheese for the top

1. I used onions, carrots and celery in my hotpot. I fried the veg off then added the pulses (pearl barley is amazing, if you haven't tried it buy some NOW).
2. Then I added some water (just enough to cover everything), the tomato paste, the marmite (yes, yes, love it or hate it that's right - well I love it and it gives veggie food a savoury taste) and the veggie mince. Personally, I'd prefer it with more lentils and pearl barley and no mince, but Steve likes mince.
3. I bought the whole lot to the boil and simmered for a while until it thickened and the pearl barley was nearly cooked. I checked on it every now and again to make sure it hadn't dried out and burned.
4. Transfer to an oven proof dish and cover with slices of potato.
5. Ideally you would paint the potato topping with melted butter so it goes golden and crispy. I couldn't be bothered to do this, so I poured a bit of milk on top and cooked it at gas mark 6. I decided the potato was going a bit black at the edges and not golden in the middle half way through cooking (after about 20 minutes) so I grated a bit of cheese on top instead.

These are the two recipes I've cooked this week so far and it's getting late, so I'll call it quits here. More recipes and photos later in the week.

I blew the budget

Okay, well it was bound to happen, I just wish I'd been a few more weeks in this blog adventure before I showed myself up as a fraud. Yes that's right I blew our shopping budget this week - I spent a whopping 20% over budget (and that's not including mid week top ups). The thing is I went to a really cheap supermaket, so I think I need to add a new rule:

"Do not throw melons into the shopping basket because you're in a discount store".

Yes, that's right. I'm blaming my overspend on the honeydew melon I splurged on. Well, the melon and the mega pack of crisps, all the extra yummy looking fruit, the bucket of yoghurt (Lidl Greek yoghurt is lovely and plentiful), the luxury muesli (it's the only brand they stock), the extra custard creams (because Steve loves them and what's the point of shopping in Lidl if you're not going to have a treat), the creme fraiche, the proper marmite and the thirst pocket kitchen towels. On examining my receipt I realised that things like tinned tomatoes are no cheaper in Lidl than the cheap ones in Asda and because they have fewer own brands, I bought brand names I wouldn't normally. For example, although marmite in Lidl is cheaper than in the big supermarkets, I wouldn't normally buy marmite, I'd buy yeast extract.

After discussing this with a wise and equally frugal friend I realised that Lidl and Aldi (both small continental supermarkets focusing on smaller ranges and generally cheaper products than the big guys for those of you who haven't come across them) can be great for particular items (e.g. Greek yoghurt), but you need to pick and choose.

I don't regret my trip to Lidl though. Steve prefers going to a smaller supermarket and I like to look at the other stuff they sell. We nearly bought a rotavator while we were there! And as my boss said, shopping in Lidl is a continental shopping experience.

Sunday, 15 May 2011


The aubergine layer of aubergine parmazano.

The tomatoey layer

Oops I thought I could rotate this in the blog. Anyway, this is parmazano

Here's the finished thing.

Leek and sausage toad in the hole
Steve's pizza - he likes things plain.

My pizza, I like lots of toppings. N had a bit of mine and a bit of Steve's and I had some salad with capers too - yum.

This is the strudel - you can see I'm hiding it and the insipid roasties with gravy.

Sticky cashew stir fry.

On the plate.
Here's a pictorial record of my meals so far.

Chiara's mozzarella pasta and my sweet and sour sauce

I don't know if the pasta dish is well known, but an Italian girl I used to know called Chiara taught me this one. It's easy, quick. tasty and surprisingly filling. This makes enough for 4 decent servings (or feeds Steve, N and I twice).

A punnet of cherry tomatoes (about 800g I think)
2 balls of mozzarella
some olive oil
Enough pasta for 4 people
Some dried oregano.

1. Cook the pasta.
2. Drain the mozzarella and cut into pieces.
3. Halve the cherry tomatoes.
4. Toss all the ingredients together in a large oven proof dish, ensuring it's well lubricated in oil.
5. Bake in the oven until the mozzarella has melted and is starting to brown and the tomatoes have softened.

Serve with a salad and crusty bread or garlic bread if you like. I'm sure you could throw other ingredients into this too, but I like it as simple as it is. Although I did add some capers to my portion. I'm addicted to capers at the moment.

My Sweet and Sour Sauce

There's no art to this and it suits my tastes. It's an adaption of a recipe I found on the internet - but I can't remember where I found it or exactly how that one went so this is my version.

2 tbs of soya sauce
3 tbs of brown sugar (sometimes I used pineapple juice instead and a bit less vinegar, but I didn't have any)
1 tbs of tomato paste
About 150 ml of distilled vinegar
A bit of cornflour

1. Mix the first 4 ingredients together and simmer gently.
2. Take a bit out and mix up some cornflour to a paste.
3. Add the cornflour, stirring constantly until thick. Add a bit more cornflour if you'd like it thicker (but make it into a paste first).

I used this sticky sauce to coat stir fried veg (which included radishes a nice man at the allotments gave me) and toasted cashew nuts. I served this with egg noodles.

Another week and some more food

Week beginning Saturday 14th May 2011

This is our dinner list for this week:
Saturday – Chiara’s mozzarella pasta
Sunday – sweet and sour cashews
Monday – random curry and tarka dhal
Tuesday – Turkish style new potato casserole
Wednesday – chips and something from the freezer
Thursday – spaghetti bolognaise or our version of stroganoff (Steve’s cooking, so it’ll be one of these two)
Friday – Quiche, new potatoes and side veg/mixed salad.

I spent £28.01 at Asda this week. I bought organic green beans (not sure why I bought organic, I think they were cheaper than the regular beans) and too much broccoli (I spent £2.36 on this). Sometimes, it’s hard to know what quantity of beg to get when you shop online. We’ll be eating a lot of broccoli this week, but N loves it and it’s full of calcium.

I bought celery and kiwi fruits this week – so I’ll be having some celery and cream cheese sandwiches for lunch and N will have having kiwi fruit in her lunch box too.

I also spent £2.59 in our corner shop on mozzarella and cheddar (which was £1.69 for 400g) and £3.28 in the co-op on apples, bread and cherry tomatoes. This brings my total to £33.88, so I’ll probably be just over the £35 by the time I’ve bought another loaf of bread and some eggs.

Experiments and failures

It's all been a bit stressful for the last few days. I'd planned to make a strudel on Thursday using filo pastry. I've never made a strudel before or used filo pastry. That was my first mistake. My second was trying to make something new when I didn't have much time and my daughter was a bit poorly, hadn't slept enough and was irritable.

The strudel was ok, but it looked a bit funny and because I was running out of time (and have a rubbish oven where things only seem to cook on the top shelf) I turned the heat up. This meant the pototoes (what was I thinking? Roast potatoes midweek!) and the strudel weren't cooked as evenly as they should be. Still Steve said it was lovely (unprompted by me - honest). Well it was a load of veggie mince and onions wrapped in pastry and Steve likes anything mince based.

Here's my recipe if you want to try it. if you do I hope you're more succesful than me. I'll be using puff pastry next time.

Lots of onions - cut in half and then into wedges
A bit of olive oil
A handful and a half of frozen veggie mince
A handful of red lentils
A few glugs of boiling water
A squeeze of tomato paste
A desertspoon full  of yeast extract
A packet of justroll filo pastry
Melted butter (actually I used margarine as that's what I had).

1. Fry off the onions, till browned.
2. Pour over the water, add the  lentils, mince, tomato paste and yeast extract.
3. Simmer until the lentils are cooked (keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't burn, add more water if necessary or better still follow the instructions for the quantities of water for the weight of lentils on the packet).
4. Grease a baking tray and lay the filo pastry on top.
5. Brush with melted butter and layer up the filo - repeat until all the layers have been assembled.
6. Put the mince in the middle and roll up.
7. Brush with more butter and bake for 30 minutes (in a decent oven) at c. 200 degrees gas mark 6.

Friday's menu went out the window as we all got more tired and more irritable and an afternoon nap for everyone was in order. This meant that instead of making nut savoury with veg I made spaghetti bolognaise, which was quick and comforting.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Toad in the Hole Trudie Style

Ooooooh Yorkshire pudding is possibly one of my favourite things to ea,t and so in my humble opinion, no roast dinner is complete without a whole load of baked batter. Throw in a few sausages (and in this case some leeks) and you have heaven on a plate.

My version of toad in the hole uses vegetarian toad. I use sos-mix sausages in particular. I prefer these to Quorn sausages and I always have a packet of sos-mix in the cupboard. For all of you who don't know, sos-mix is a sort of vegetable protein sausage powder (it’s much nicer than it sounds). You just add water, let it stand for a few minutes and then form into sausages and fry. It's great for making patties or meat balls too and it's so easy to add herbs or onions to sos-mix for an extra treat.

I also like to add veggies to my toad in the hole. This time I added leek (as I've got some to use up from the allotment), but you could add anything. In fact I got the idea from a vegetarian recipe book which suggested baby vegetables. Onion, sweetcorn, carrots, broccoli and green beans all work particularly well.

Ok so here's my recipe. It's enough for us for two meals when served with veg and potatoes (we had mash yesterday).

2 eggs
3/4 cup of plain flour (sorry the batteries out on my scales so I’m using measuring cups – I can’t remember the weight in ounces).
300 ml milk (I used soya milk)
pinch of salt
6 sausages
1 leek

Make the batter but whisking the eggs, flour, salt and milk together. Proper cooks will tell you to make a well in the flour whisk the egg in and then the milk, but I don't bother. I just measure the milk in the measuring jug, add the other ingredients to that and then whisk.

You can use this straight away, but I tend to leave it to rest for a few hours in the fridge (cover it up first though). Basically I had some time to make this while N was occupied so I did.

When you're ready to make dinner, turn the oven on and preheat to 200 degrees/gas mark 6. Put a bit of oil in the bottom of an oven proof dish (I used a large oval ceramic dish) and out in the oven to get nice and hot.

While the oven's heating up make up the sausages and fry (actually I did this earlier in the day too). To make 6 sausages feed 3 people twice cut each sausage into 3 pieces to look like more in the dish. Wash and chop your veg that you're adding.

When the oil has had time to heat up give the batter a little bit more of a mix and pour into the hot oily dish. Then scatter your sausages and veg over.

Bake for about 40 minutes. I cut the bits I'm saving wrap in tin foil and freeze when cool.

Photos to follow.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Aubergine Parmazano

That's right Parmazano, not parmigiana. Parmesan is rarely suitable for vegetarians as it’s nearly always made with animal rennet, but Parmazano is a vegan alternative. I’ve no idea whether or not it’s like real Parmesan but I like it.

This recipe has been adapted from one I saw on a Sacla jar about 10 years ago.

1. large onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 tins of tomatoes
2 pinches of sugar
Some oregano (I used about 3 teaspoons of fresh oregano)
1 tbs of tomato puree
About 6 tbs of Parmazano
Ball of mozzarella
8 sundried tomatoes
¾ aubergine
Olive oil

1. Heat some olive oil in a pan. Chop the onion and sauté it. Crush the garlic and add it.
2. Add the tinned tomatoes, sugar, oregano and tomato puree and simmer until it thickens and comes together. Adjust the seasoning as you see fit.
3. Slice the aubergine and brush with olive oil. Gridle in a gridle pan (or grill, fry or bake if you prefer).
4. While the aubergine is gridling and the tomato sauce is simmering cut the sundried tomatoes into bite sized pieces and slice the mozzarella.
6. Put a layer of gridled aubergine circles on the bottom of an oven proof dish.
7. Add a layer of tomato sauce, and sprinkle on half the parmazano.
8. Scatter half the sundried tomato pieces on next and top with half the mozzarella.
9. Repeat the layering sequence finishing with the mozzarella.
10. Bake in the oven until browned on top. I tend to bake everything at gas mark 6 or 200 degrees unless otherwise specified. Should be cooked after 20 – 30 minutes.

This is enough for all of us for two meals. N is only 1, so her portions aren’t very big (in reality we just give her a small bit of ours). This recipe would be enough for four people is supplemented with salad and bread, or if you’re just having it on its own it’s really only enough for two people.

I’ll add some photos when I get around to downloading them.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Week 1

This week I spent £31.41 at Asda, plus a further £3.61 at Tesco (eggs - they were on offer, 3 loaves reduced and in the freezer, Greek yoghurt and apples 11p!)

That's 42 products for £35.02 (damn burst my budget in the first week, but those apples were a bargain). The most expensive thing I bought was a litre of sunflower oil for £1.58.

Next to the apples the cheapest things I bought were a mango (it's my favourite fruit and a steal at 50p) and a tin of tomatoes for 33p (yes, yes from the dreaded smart price range).

I do have a cupboard full of herbs, spices and rice and pasta, so I didn't have to buy any of that this week. I did have to replenish my flour supplies though.

This week we'll mainly be eating the following.

S – Cornflakes, OJ, tea, 2 slices of toast
T –Boiled egg and soldiers, OJ.
N – Weetabix, banana
S – Cheese on toast with veggie sausage and baked beans
T – someone else’s expense (we’re at a birthday party)
N – same as T
All - Aubergine parmazano, salad and homemade garlic bread.
S – same everyday
T – coconut and cardamom porridge and fresh coffee
N – porridge, yoghurt and banana
All – lunch out as a special treat
All -Veggie toad in the hole, mash, broccoli, carrots and gravy.
S – same everyday
T – Muesli and OJ
N – Weetabix, toast
S – Cheese on toast with veggie sausages and baked beans
T – Cheese and cucumber sandwich, yoghurt and blackcurrants
N – cream cheese sandwich, tomatoes, strawberry stick, satsuma
All - Cauliflower cheese, boiled potatoes and peas (from the freezer)
S – same everyday
T – Muesli and OJ
N – weetabix, yoghurt and banana
S – Ploughman’s sandwich, crisps, chocolate bar.
T – Cheese and cucumber sandwich, yoghurt and mango
N – cream cheese sandwich, tomatoes, humzinger, mango
All – homemade pizza with variety of veggie toppings (including peppers and asparagus)
T – Muesli and OJ
N – weetabix, yoghurt and banana
S – Ploughman’s sandwich, crisps, chocolate bar.
T – Cheese and cucumber sandwich, yoghurt and mango
N – peanut butter sandwich, cucumber, strawberry stick, mango
All – chips, nut cutlets/cauliflower cheese grills, beans/peas, bread and butter.
S – same everyday
T – toast and fresh coffee
N – shredded wheat, yogurt and toast.
S – Ploughman’s sandwich, crisps, chocolate bar.
T – pasta salad with asparagus
N – pasta salad with asparagus, mango
All -Savoury mince filo strudel with broccoli, roast potatoes, peas and gravy.
S – same everyday
T – boiled egg and toast
N – shredded wheat, yogurt and toast.
S – Ploughman’s sandwich, crisps, chocolate bar.
T – pasta salad with asparagus
N – pasta salad with asparagus, mango
All - Nut savoury, mashed potato, carrots, butter beans and gravy.

Steve, my partner, likes to eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch everyday (it does vary from a ploughman's sandwich to beans on toast at the weekend). My daughter, N, and me like to mix it up a bit more. We all eat plentiful fruit throughout the day. I like to eat toast in the evenings and Steve likes cornflakes as a late night snack.

I'll post up some of the dinner recipes complete with pics as I get to them.